Hey Track Nation! Welcome to my track blog. My name is Obafemi Animashaun and I run and hurdle at Union Catholic Regional High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Here you can enter my mind and thoughts of what it’s like going through high school track. But before you get all in my business, you have to get to know me first.
Like I said, my name is Obafemi, but most people call me Oba or Femi. My first experience with track and field was in 4th-grade. Every year, my town holds a track meet for the 4th- and 5th-graders to show off what speed they might have in their little 9-year-old bodies. I had a fun experience with it, but it did not grab my attention because, “it was just running.”
Fast forward to 7th-grade, where I joined my first AAU team, the Comets. I remember my first race and how lost I was, literally and figuratively. It was a 200 and I was ready to go ... well, at least I thought I was. But when the gun popped to start the race, everything I thought I knew about being fast and racing was shut down. As I crossed the line, I learned a very important lesson about track and that it was not just running.
As I progressed through the years, I became more confident in my track ability. The next step in my track career was high school. At the time, I wasn’t worried about the intensity of track because like most of the kids I know, my athletic dreams relied on football or basketball. Union Catholic had a reputation for track that I was unaware of until I had arrived. UC had won national championships in the sprint medley and 4x200. Unknowingly, I had entered a legacy that was destined to continue.
My freshman year, I was the only sprinter in the class at the time. With that, I became more committed to being the best I could be. Along with that commitment a few things were taken away, like the class trip to Six Flags – which I had to skip because of the New Jersey Meet of Champions, which was the following day. But other than that, my first year of UC track was pretty successful. I medaled at both the New Balance Indoor and Outdoor Nationals for the freshman 400, and ran the state freshman record in the 400 hurdles (54.68).
Things were looking up for the following year and the future felt promising, but unfortunately I dropped into the infamous “sophomore slump.” I had written down goals for the year starting out. But after tearing my PCL in my right knee in a soccer game, the things I had expected for the year were starting to fade. With the injury, I began to lose the confidence I had built up for myself. If I had to say, sophomore year has been my most difficult and challenging year. I lost the drive to race and compete.
I had to dedicate myself to getting back to where I was and surpassing it, going for the goals I had set earlier on. A big part of my drive to get back was the success of my teammates. Fueled by frustration, I attacked every race I could, but even with that motivation, I still couldn’t reach were I aimed. NBNI my sophomore year was the beginning of the true comeback. My first race was the sprint medley. It was the race of the year. Everybody was going for it: Union Catholic, St. Benedict’s, Liverpool, Pascack Valley, West Orange… the pressure of the year and the race had built up to that race. I didn’t run the way I wanted to, which put me more into the slump. After that race, I went home knowing I had another race to run the next day, thinking, “If I don’t bang this one, I’m done,”
So it’s Sunday and the 4x400 is about to go off. At that time, I had to run for myself, run to reassure myself that this is what I’m supposed to do. When I got the stick, I knew it was on. I felt the adrenaline that I was missing all year. With that adrenaline, I gained my drive to attack. In my head, I’m screaming to myself, “Don’t lose! Don’t lose! Don’t lose!” And as I saw the guy next to me get closer, that same voice said, “Jump!” (editor’s note: Union Catholic won that penultimate section of the 2012 NBNI 4x400 by 7/1000 of a second)
Last year, my junior year, I wanted to go for it all and run whatever I could, the best I could. Hurdles, 4x4, 4x2, 4x8, anything possible! As a team, we were concerned with how good we would be considering how we lost seniors ... but we developed into a better, faster team. That year at NBNI, we won the shuttle hurdles, 4x4 and 4x2. It was something we planned on going for, but didn’t believe until it happened.
This year is a new chapter. Senior year is the year for going all out and using up everything you have left. Throughout high school, we run to impress colleges and get scholarships. But once we achieve those goals and go through the grind of qualifying for counties, states and nationals, we have to start running for ourselves. This is that time, this is my year.
Note: Obafemi and his teammates competed in the Eastern States meet Monday night. Stay tuned for the story of that event and more upcoming action in Obafemi's next blog.